Former country star Doyle Mayfield is on the comeback trail and the only way he figures he can get there is with a new singing partner - who happens to be the third Debbie in his life.
Alas for him, the newly recruited Debbie is the one to profit by this partnership as her career begins to move in an upswing tempo. Think of this like A Star is Born except with a lot more parody and wickedly funny lyrics instead of heartfelt songs.
Stages Repertory Theatre's Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin says when he began reading the script for The Doyle and Debbie Show in his office he kept laughing out loud, so much so that other people he works with kept coming in asking him "What are you reading?"
"And then when I heard the music to these songs, I was like this has got to be a done deal," he says. Song titles include: "God Loves America Best," When You're Screwing Other Women (Think of Me)" and "Barefoot and Pregnant."
Central to both Doyle's successes and his much-publicized failures over the past years is the name "Debbie." As McLaughlin explains:
"He had his first wife and his first Debbie. And then he cheated on his first wife with his first Debbie. His first Debbie became his second wife and he got a second Debbie and he cheated on his second wife with his second Debbie who became his third wife. So his pattern is to marry his Debbies."
"It's that complete level of witty parody that completely captures that sounds and style of country music," McLaughlin says. "The crafting and the writing is just so spectacular.
"There’s love in its bones for country music but also a real skewering of the tropes — the cheating husband or the girl gone bad in the barroom or the overly mythologized America. They manage to completely skewer it. And what they get so right is if you look at that window where you had these teams throughout the '60s like Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton and George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It just drips with misogyny. Here are these women who are relatively strong incredible artists in their own right standing next to these men. There’s some deadpan stuff that the Debbie character does, I just roll on the floor. It just feels so contemporary right now."
The musical was written by Bruce Arntson who wrote it for himself and still performs it in Nashville, Branson and Las Vegas, McLaughlin says. In Houston it will be performed by Luke Longacre (Doyle) Chelsea Ryan McCurdy (Debbie), and Travis Kirk Coombs (Buddy, the guy who runs the venue where the event takes place) in a 85-minute straight-through format.
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One of the unique challenges in performing this musical is that the character of Doyle is a master yodeler, McLaughlin says.
"Because the conceit of this show is a tiny little honky tonk, we've compressed the space a little bit and we've brought audience seating onto the stage so there's tables where you can actually sit right on top of it.
"And the end is just fun."
Performances are scheduled for July 12 through September 8 at 7:30 Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at Stages, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $20-$85.